Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Welcome home

April 1 isn't just April Fool's for me, it's my 'welcome home' anniversary after four years in the wilds of Asia. My first year back in Kiwiland tough, a lot tougher than I ever expected it to be. In retrospect far harder than my first year in Korea where everything was new and exciting.

All the things I hated about New Zealand were still there but seemed 1000X more annoying and I felt completly isolated from my New Zealand-based friends and family. It's one thing to make small-talk during a once a year fleeting visit, it's another to have to re-kindle relationships that have been put on ice for years. Some have been re-started, others have drifted away.

The same could be said of my expat world. Due to language barriers, your social circle was often diminished to the whities in your neighbourhood. Every few months one would up and leave eventually replaced with someone else. Which was perhaps good because at least there was a healthy supply of sane people on the peninsular. I'm not sure if there was something in the water but the wackiest people I've ever met were long-term Korean expats. They make even the craziest bloggers and political hacks seem rather normal and well-adjusted in comparison. Some never make the transition back to western life treating the big K like the Hotel California.

As for me, I knew my time was up. The little things were starting to annoy, the constant staring, the 'oh look there's a foreigner' chorus that seemed to follow the minute I set foot outside my apartment, the smog, the spitting on the street, the way seemingly simple tasks seemed to be so damn difficult due to language and cultural differences and most of all the sexism.

You'd think the people I would be most bitter about were the local men who seemed to equate my blonde hair and blue eyes as being synonymous with being a hooker. I've since worked out that my going rate is $1,000US a night after being offered the sum while I was shopping for make-up in a high-end department store one day. But actually the worst offenders were the western men. Perhaps it was because I expected more from them, but there were plenty of men who seemed to think they were all that and a bag of potato chips now that they could land plenty of 'hot chicks' and their way of dealing with white women they happened to disagree with make Paul Henry seem civilized in comparison.

Would I live overseas again? Probably at some point in my life. The sound of the jet engines that drew me away from New Zealand on search of cash and some adventure can still be heard from my current abode willing on to a new adventure.


Psycho Milt said...

There's no denying NZ is a small place at the arse end of the world and there's a lot to be said for spending time somewhere more interesting.

Today's my third anniversary of returning to NZ. My wife's already got itchy feet, but I came back to my dream job and would like to clock up at least 5 years in it - and I have reservations about doing that to the kids again.

I think you notice annoying things about a foreign country a lot easier than you do about your own country, because you grew up there and it seems normal. One of my Indian neighbours in Kuwait used to fill me in on her cousin who'd immigrated to NZ, and was annoyed by all kind of things that I'd never even particularly noticed. No doubt if I moved to India I'd find lots of things extremely annoying that the locals have never been much bothered by. Sort of like being really bothered by other people's farts but not minding your own very much, I guess.

Anonymous said...

I would leave this afternoon if I felt like I could. I have just been in Adelaide and Melbourne for a few days and even though I don't want to live in either of those cities the contrast with Auckland is so vast!